Self-response effort due to end Wednesday
The head officials with the local census effort are in their final days of pushing for Roswell and Chaves County residents to complete their census surveys, saying they are working as if self-response ends in three days in spite of a federal court ruling saying government data collection must continue for another month.
“Unless we hear differently from the government, we are done by Sept. 30,” said Marcos Nava, head of the Roswell 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and also the executive director of the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce.
On Saturday morning, as has been the case every Saturday since July 11, Nava was at the Farmers’ and Gardeners’ Market on the Chaves County Courthouse lawn. He asked people as they passed by if they wanted to complete the census survey and waved his arms and congratulated them if they said they already had.
He reiterated his view that the committee’s effort has been successful.
“With the help of the enumerators, I feel confident we are going to reach our goal of 50,000,” he said, referring to the head count that the city of Roswell wants to reach.
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The actual count is not expected to be known until early 2021.
Enumerators are the U.S. Census Bureau employees tasked with following up with households that did not respond on their own to the surveys that were mailed in mid-March.
Survey response is a legal requirement for all people living in the United States. As Nava and his fellow committee members have been declaring on bulletin boards, radio and TV ads, flyers, social media posts, yard signs and person-to-person outreach at events since May 2019, each person counted as a New Mexico resident has significant impact.
Each person represents about $37,450 in federal funding over 10 years for roads, public safety, education, food, health care and other services to the city and county. Populations counts and demographic data are also used to determine state and congressional representation, formulate public policy, conduct research and assist businesses in making decisions.
As of Friday, New Mexico’s total response rate, which includes self-response and enumerator counts, was 94.8%, while the U.S. total response rate was 97.4%.
The importance of enumerator follow-up can be seen in the difference between total response rates and self-response rates. The self-response rate for the U.S. on Friday was 66.4%. For New Mexico, it was 57.7%. For Chaves County, the self-response rate was 61.8%. The self-response rate for cities in Chaves County was 65% for Roswell, 46.8% for Lake Arthur, 41.7% for Hagerman and 40.7% for Dexter.
The Chaves County “projected goal is 64.4%, which was our self-response rate in 2010,” said Louis Jaramillo. “So we are not too far away, although I would prefer to be a little closer.”
Jaramillo heads the volunteer count committee for Chaves County, and he is the county Planning and Zoning director.
He said the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the county has about 27,500 households now.
“I do wish the southern areas would have responded a bit better, but, with COVID 19, you really do not want to be out too much,” he said.
Previously, he also has said many rural households in the county did not receive surveys in the mail.
He added that southern New Mexico’s total response rate is 91.2%, with the help of enumerators.
When enumerators will stop work is still a matter of political and judicial wrangling. Originally the deadline for counting was July 30, but the coronavirus pandemic caused the federal government to change schedules and establish an Oct. 30 data collection deadline.
Then the Census Bureau announced Aug. 3 that it was pushing up the data collection deadline to Sept. 30 so that it could meet its legal obligation of turning over counts to the presidential administration by Dec. 31. It stated that good results still would be ensured by investing more in enumerator man-hours and setting up reward programs for effective enumerators. But information from the Census Bureau indicated that the number of enumerators hired was about 45,000 short of its own goal by early September.
That deadline change caused court challenges, as well as outcries by some in Congress, including the New Mexico delegation. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Ben Lujan, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small wrote to Census Bureau administrators on Sept. 11 to express their “grave concerns about the success of the ongoing operation.”
They said the reduction in the number of enumerators hired for New Mexico compared to 2010, the closing of New Mexico offices due to the pandemic, less media advertising in the state and other factors “all but assures severe undercounts” of Native Americans, rural households and other hard-to-reach groups in the state.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Kohl in San Jose, California issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the end of data collection on Sept. 30, saying enumeration efforts must continue until the end of October.
Attorneys for the U.S. government had argued before Kohl that the nationwide completion rate proved that additional time was not needed. Some have predicted that the U.S. government will appeal the injunction.
Nava and Jaramillo said the court decision is not affecting them at this point.
In addition to manning the Chaves County Courthouse booth Saturday, they intended to make another visit to San Juan Catholic Church in Roswell today to get more surveys done. For the next three days, news and social media ads, UFO characters downtown waving signs, electronic billboards, banners and continued person-to-person outreach will continue.
To complete a survey directly with U.S. Census Bureau, go online to www.2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020. Nava can be contacted at the Hispano Chamber office at 575-624-0889. Jaramillo can be reached at the county Planning and Zoning Office at 575-624-6562.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.